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Neutraceuticals

William T. Jarvis, Ph.D.

Nutraceuticals is a term proposed to be used to classify foods that "provide medical or health benefits." Its an concept that purports to bridge the gap between foods and drugs. For instance, if broccoli has cancer prevention qualities, promoters would have exclusive rights to make consumers aware of such benefits. The nutraceutical idea's principal backer is Stephen Felice, MD,

Proponents believe that allowing this concept would encourage more research into the special health benefits of foods. In NCAHF's view, the neutraceutical idea has the same objectionable features of allowing health claims for foods. The potential of advertising to reach consumers through both psychology and excessive exposure is most likely to distort reality rather than educate. Salesmanship accentuates the positive and eliminates the negative. The popular notion of "if a little is good, a lot is better" can reasonably be expected to lead to unbalanced use. For instance, two adult female heart patients developed resistance to needed anticoagulant medication (warfarin) due to almost daily ingestion of large quantities of broccoli in soups and salads [1].

In NCAHF's view, there are better ways of getting dietary information to the public than through advertising. The FDA's proposed plan of allowing limited prescribed health messages seems like the most useful way to get such information to the public. Since passage of the 1994 Dietary Supplements Health and Education Act, the regulation of dietary supplements has become almost nil. Manufacturers of nutraceuticals -- or products claimed to be nutraceuticals -- have a great deal of "wiggle room" for promoting products. If food companies want to do constructive nutrition education, they should debunk the widely-held nutrition misconceptions that undermine confidence in modern foodstuffs. These include myths that (a) our soil is depleted, (b) our food supply is poisoned by additives and pesticides, (c) our foods are devoid of nutrients, (d) nutritional approaches can remedy most ailments; (e) foods are either either good or bad, (f) sugar causes hyperactivity, and so forth. Wise people understand that misinformation has unimagined ways of causing harm if left unchallenged.

NCAHF's evaluation of one line of products (VAXA) that relies heavily upon the term "nutraceutical" found that ordinary substances were promoted in a manner that made them appear extraordinary. This appeared to be done to match the extraordinarily high prices for the product line and to finance the multilevel marketing aspects of the program.

Reference

  1. Midwife, Health Visitor & Community Nurse, 1984; 20:(1):16.

Copyright Notice

© 1997 National Council Against Health Fraud. With proper citation, this article may be reproduced for noncommercial purposes

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This article was posted on December 1, 2000.